Dinner is Served
Every dawn brings something special to each and everyone of us, every dawn brings hope. The sun comes, bringing with it the first appearance of sunlight and a fresh new day begins. Ahhhh. The salmon glow across the horizon, the smell of dew and earth, the chirping of birds... Dawn welcomes all these lovely things into our lives. Notice them, Dear Readers. Allow your surroundings to inspire you to get into your kitchen and create.
This afternoon, I have a tired, hungry and incredibly busy teenager to feed. What to do? What to do? Create! Dah! My predicament? Tomorrow I am hosting a birthday dinner for my husband, Russell, and I do not want a lot of leftovers in the house. Tonight I want to make something my teenager, our youngest daughter, Mia, will enjoy and devour. Choices. Choices. I decided to let the dawn and the scents of morning inspire me. The dawn was pink. Pink makes me think of meat. The smell of earth was everywhere and that made me think of gardening. Gardening make me think of what I will plant this season and that made me think of potatoes. So, I decided to make my stuffed burgers and something with potato.
To start, I will prepare a simple filling of cream cheese and melty cheese, season the organic beef, divide the meat into portions, stuff each portion and cook the burger stovetop. (Visit my Recipes page for my stuffed burger recipe.) I think I will cook the potatoes on the stovetop as well. Perhaps I will make a sort of layered pancake? I'm thinking about using a mandolin to thinly slice the potatoes and cook them until crisp in some ghee or WAIT, bacon drippings! Plate everything with a crisp, fresh salad and dinner is served! See how easy it is to create a meal?
Maybe you would prefer to make a salmon burger? That would be delicious as well. Instead of using the cheese filling as a stuffing. spread it on bread and toast it. Top that creamy, melty goodness with the salmon burger and YUM, dinner! Plate it with the potato pancake and a salad. This would be a Lent-friendly meal option.
Somewhere In Between
Winter has departed and spring has arrived. The problem? We are all at the somewhere in between time of year that happens twice a year. Once now, between winter and spring and once again between fall and winter. The urge to plant is undeniable but it's too early just like later in the year it will be too late. What to do? What to do? I recommend purchasing organic live herbs from the grocery store. Instead of spending (nearly) the same amount of money for sad, sorry little bundles of wilted dead herbs, purchase the same herb as a live plant. The next step? Care for the plant, Water it and give it ambient sunlight and watch it thrive and grow. In just a few weeks, transplant the fresh herb to the outside and again, water it and watch it thrive and grow. Yay! You get to nuture your green thumb and the environment and BONUS, you get to use the herb NOW. Double YAY! In fact, triple YAY!
Rise and Fall
Spring has arrived! Finally! I had all but given up...
Just outside our porch steps, the first bulbs of spring have broken through and bloomed! They are such a welcome and happy sight. Blooms make me think of bread and bread makes me think of time. Time makes me think of process and process makes me think of how waiting for spring or making bread are both a process of waiting for the rise and fall of something. Flowers rise and blooms fall just like bread dough rises and then falls. See the parallel? I knew you would, Dear Reader.
Yesterday, I played in the kitchen and experimented with making Greek bread. I made a small change to a recipe I found for Lagana Bread at the 196flavors website. Lagana Bread is a type of Greek flatbread and I substituted maple sugar for white sugar in the recipe and the result is less sweet and more earthy, both of which I enjoy. Ever try that, Dear Reader? Substituting one ingredient in a recipe? Just one. Yeah, I thought you might.
Getting back to the rise and fall of bread making... I used the dough almost like a pizza dough for a cooking contest I will be entering soon and will be sharing the recipe soon as well. Stay tuned, you will be glad you did.
Blooming Good Time
Today is the first day of spring! Finally! Today in the east, we've had rain and more rain and then more rain and just for luck, more rain. Rain, whether it comes in mores or lesses still makes for a blooming good time. Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. Spring is a time of newness; new light, new life, new trends and new tastes. Spring is a time of bright colors and freshened up homes and attitudes. Spring is a time to explore and create and a time to let your spirit soar!
What to do? What to do? Get cooking of course! Dah! As if you didn't know "cooking" is where I was going? Spring makes me think of things that rise. What rises? Soufflés, breads, popovers, new growth like herbs. Herbs can be put into soufflés, breads and popovers. See, Dear Readers? See how easily inspiration can come in the kitchen? One thing leads to another, winter leads to spring and blooming leads to good times.
Greatness in Greekness
I This past weekend, I decided to channel my Greek great grandmother. I decided, it was time I tackled one of the most important pastry doughs of my heritage. I decided, it was time to learn how to make and work with filo/phyllo dough. No matter how you spell it, filo or phyllo; it boils down to one fact, there is greatness in Greekness. Anyone who has ever bitten into a sweet and crispy bite of baklava or savored a rich and fragrant piece of spanakopita knows of what I speak. Anyone who has danced with joy in the moonlight as they sip ouzo over lively conversation or taken 20 minutes to say goodbye to loved ones will also confirm with a resounding OPA!
Of the numerous pastry doughs I have made from puff to pate sucree, nothing has mattered more to me to perfect. I first attempted homemade filo dough about two years ago and I have to admit, it was a challenge. I understood the basic principles of assembling the dough and had a good sense of the equipment required to roll the dough. I had heard the story my mother, Ellen, told me of how my great grandmother had a special table in her basement in San Francisco where her yaya (grandma) would roll sheet after sheet of filo dough, while she played on the bottom shelf of the table. I watched a few YouTube videos for guidance and I sprinkled in a healthy amount of swearing for luck.
Why would this experience of making filo dough be different from the first time? The answer is simple and obvious, I had the experience of a measure of failure and I have visited Greece since the last time I made the dough. During that visit, I was able to taste many dishes made with fresh filo dough and I got to discuss with my cousins how they and their mothers prepared and rolled the dough. There are a few key elements to working with filo dough:
1. A good recipe. I used one I found at genius kitchen (https://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/homemade-phyllo-pastry-71214) Like most grandmothers, mine did not write a recipe down so I had to start from scratch.
2. Patience and practice are required.
3. Use a long, 1-inch dowel to roll the dough, not a rolling pin.
4. Use corn flour, not all-purpose flour when rolling the dough.
4. Allow the dough to rest.
5. Use the dough as you roll the dough. (I made two types of Greek dishes as I rolled each sheet of filo. I made Spanikopita and Tiropita.)
5. Do not rush the process. Making homemade filo dough is work, especially for a novice.
6. In all honesty, unless you are of Greek heritage, as I am, find a good brand of store-bought filo dough and use that. (The taste and texture of fresh, homemade filo dough is far different from what is found commercially and as I mentioned, making homemade filo dough is work albeit, rewarding work, but work just the same.)
Searching for Saint Patrick
This upcoming weekend has me thinking green and searching for Saint Patrick; after all, Saint Patrick's Day is this weekend. My heritage is half Greek, one quarter French and the rest? Well, let's just say, I have a touch of this and a touch of that. In today's troubled times, I believe we could all do with a bit of unity. It is my belief, we could all also do with a bit of happy. It is not time to build walls but to mend them where necessary and break them down where necessary.
Does it really matter if a person has any Irish heritage to claim Saint Patrick's Day as a unified day to be more happy? I say, "NO." Not only the Irish may lay claim to Saint Patty's Day! As it happens, my husband's heritage is half German and the other is nearly split down the middle between Irish and English. I know what you're thinking, Dear Readers, how do two people from classically hot and cold lineage come together and find a common ground? Easy. Soda bread. Yep. Soda bread. Silly I know, but there is no judging here at Mary's Kitchen.
As it turns out, soda bread was created, not by the Irish, as is often thought, but by the Native Americans. (Yet another great idea by the founders of our country...) Anyway, that is not relevant but the fact that something easy and quick to make that is served up piping hot and slathered in butter is just plain, well, happy. I turn to a reliable and hearty recipe found at epicurious.com but there is probably one you turn to too. Do you add caraway seeds, raisins, currants or neither. Do you use whole wheat, white or a mix of both. Do you like your soda bread with sugar or without. Does it really matter? Again, the answer is simple, nope. Does it make you and your loved ones happy and satisfied to know you made something, anything, that can be slathered in butter and eaten together? Again, the answer is simple, nope. So, here's to the sharing in a treasured tradition and looking ahead to greener times.
There are many isolated people in the world. Sometimes the isolation is of their own doing. Sometimes the isolation is due their environment. Sometimes their isolation is due to their personalities. Sometimes their isolation is because they have never admitted to their own loneliness. Recent studies show that isolationism is worse for a person than smoking. Imagine, smoking! What to do? What to do?
As home cooks, we cook and bake a lot. Okay, at least, I do. How does that relate to isolation? Simply like this; each time you cook or bake something, set aside a small portion for someone you know or a neighbor you would like to know better, and make a friendly delivery with it. Make a friendly delivery with a smile and a 'how are you today?' Such a small gesture, yet such a HUGE return! Try it and I bet you gain as much from the kind act as the person you visit. Please share your comments and experiences in the comments section. Let's start a wave of friendly deliveries!
Foods to Help Spring Forward
Today is the day after most of us set our clocks forward. There are places in the country, like Arizona, where time stays the same. (They tried the setting-the-clocks-forward-thing to prolong daylight and there was rioting in the streets!) Anyway, here in the east, additional daylight is a good thing, at least it will be if/when the sun comes out.
I started thinking about what foods might be best to eat to help ease a Dear Reader into a time change so I investigated, as I often do. I found postings about foods to help with jet lag on ndtv.com and delish.com. Lemons, bananas, goji berries, cherries, quinoa and chicken all made the lists, but why? Lemons help to alkalize the body and let's face it, are yummy and refreshing. Bananas can help relax and calm you to help you sleep. Goji berries help you have a better quality of rest. Ginger, like lemon, helps with tummy stuff. Cherries can help with joint pain and quinoa is loaded with amino acids to help give your muscles energy. Chicken is a protein so you stay fuller longer and blah, blah.
Okay. Now you know what to eat but how do you eat the foods that will help us feel rested and peppy is where I come into the picture. Here is a good plan for the day:
How about a banana with ginger and lemon tea to start your day followed by a quinoa salad dressed with olive oil and tossed with cherries, almonds and chunks of chicken. For dessert? I got you. How about ice cream and goji berries? Feeling peppy already I bet. Try these foods to help spring forward and leap into action!
Spring into Spring
I for one, Dear Readers, am ready to spring into spring! ALL about the everywhere are signs it is coming. Cardinals are singing, seed packet stands are featured in stores, shelves are being cleared to make room for gardening equipment and basements are getting cleaned out. Here, in the east, we have been slammed (and hard) with snow, ice, wind and freezing temperatures. It is a dangerous time to be walking about, I for one fell and cracked my wrist a bit, our beautiful lilac tree broke in two and our poor dog, Lollipop, is just plain confused. What to do? What to do? Well, instead of wishing and hoping, I am doing and planning.
I have taken back my house. I decluttered, threw out, recycled and sold what we don't need. I rearranged and organized rooms, closets and yes, the basement. I am using what I have and trying not acquire more. That applies to food stuffs as well as stuff stuff. This last bit is my recommendation to you, Dear Readers. Use what you have. If something does not have a purpose, get rid of it. I promise you, once you begin organizing and the process of getting rid of stuff, it's addictive. Set aside a little time as often as possible and then commit to one place; for example, a closet. Once you dig in and start organizing, you will be amazed at the difference it will make in your life. Such a small act, yet such a HUGE return.
Avid home cook and passionate instructor